Court rules Ontario has right to grant mining, forestry permits for First Nation land
The Grassy Narrows First Nation has spent 13 years trying to stop the government from taking land in its Keewatin territory for clear-cutting operations by Resolute Forest Products Canada inc.
TORONTO—Ontario’s highest court has ruled that the province has the right to “take up” treaty land for mining and forestry.
The Grassy Narrows First Nation challenged Ontario’s right to permit industrial logging on its traditional lands, saying it infringed on their hunting and trapping rights under a treaty they signed in 1873.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled the province doesn’t need the federal government’s approval to take up the lands—a decision that overturns a lower-court ruling.
The First Nation has spent 13 years in court fighting the province’s decision to issue a licence to Resolute Forest Products Canada Inc.—then known as Abitibi-Consolidated Inc.—for clear-cut operations in parts of the Keewatin portion of Treaty 3 territory.
The company pulled out of the Whiskey Jack Forest north of Kenora in 2008, saying it couldn’t wait four more years for the province and the First Nation to agree on logging practices.
Observers said the lower-court ruling put the validity of forestry and mining licenses in jeopardy, and at least one mining company hailed the Appeal Court decision as a positive one for them.
“While Rubicon was not a party to the Keewatin case, the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in upholding the jurisdiction of the province of Ontario to issue mining permits is very important for mining companies in Ontario,” Rubicon Minerals Corp. said in a statement.